The Ultimate Guide to Ba

Dec. 6, 2017, 5:08 a.m.

 

Overview

Ba is a commercial melting pot renowned for fostering some of the largest business houses in the country, with many eminent families claiming their roots here. The cane-belt town is named after the province it falls under, and located along the Kings Rd on the Western coast of Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest island.

Built on the banks of the Ba River, it is also known as Fiji’s soccer town, given the widespread support of local football from its community, the many championships won by its soccer teams and as the site of the sport’s  sole, local  training institution, the Fiji Football Academy, in Yalalevu. Prominent businesses with roots in Ba include hardware giants, RC Manubhai & Co and Vinod Patel Co Ltd, the Motibhai Group,Ba Motor Parts, MR Dayal Group of Companies, A Jan Group of Companies and Bhikabhai & Co. Ltd.

In the indigenous context, Ba Province is headed by two paramount chiefs; Ratu Filimoni Lagivola Nale of Soro ko Ba village (located along the Kings towards Tavua Town) and the Tui Ba of Nailaga village, located along the Kings Rd between Lautoka and Ba Town).The seat of the latter is vacant following the death of the Marama na Tui Ba, Adi Laite Koroirua in July, 2017.

 

History

Ba has a colorful history as  an early European settlement for sugar and cotton plantation owners and indentured labourers who were shipped  from India and the Solomon Islands to work on these farms in appalling conditions by the Colonial Sugar Refinery (CSR) Company. The Now known as the Fiji Sugar Corporation, the CSR was headquartered in Sydney, Australia and opened the Rarawai Mill on the banks of the Ba River in 1886, followed by the establishment of the cane-breeding Agricultural Experimental Station in 1904. The mill is still operated by the FSC.

Built on the banks of the Ba River, the Rarawai  Mill has been repeatedly inundated with 32 floods from 1892 to 2014, at an average of once every 3.8 years, according to Risk Frontiers.

Historical accounts note that the formative years of the CSR in Ba stipulated residential allocation, with the homes of European mechanics located closely to the Rarawai Mill, whlile part-Europeans were lodged at Newtown. Long, low buildings of single rooms known as “coolie lines” were occupied by CSR labourers- most of them indentured labourers recruited from India. Chinese shops were in abundance near the Vaileka creek, and also a host of Indian-owned shops retailing brassware and other items, during this period in the 1920s, while a grocery store by the Ba River that belonged to businessman, Sir Hugh Ragg was eventually bought by Morriss Headstrom, and still stands today. It was commercial enterprises that were established to cater to the CSR workforce and employees that saw the formation of the township.

One of the country’s first Wesleyan schools was established in Ba in 1899.  Now the site of Ba Methodist High School at Nailaga Village, the Matavelo Girls School was initially a preparatory institution for indigenous Fijian girls and young women, teaching them English and training students in what was considered best practises for motherhood, hygiene and piousness.

Indentured labour in Fiji phased out in the 20s , with a  steady migration of merchants and tradesmen from India forming a considerable population of Indo-Fijians in the country, particularly in Ba, whose businesses and trades flourished around the mainstay of sugar and  incepted as a township on. April the 11th, 1939.  The Ba Township Board was elevated to Town Council status in 1972. Former mayors include businessman, Vinod Patel, Dijendra Singh, Ahmad Bhamji, Luke Vakayadra, Shashi Kant Patel, Bharat Raman Lal, Daniel Elisha, Arun C Singh and  Pradeep Chand,

Xavier College was founded by the Columbian Fathers and established in February 1953 by the Catholic Archdiocese of Suva. It was built on landed donated by businessman and  eminent civil servant, Sir Hugh Hall Ragg and was initially a boys school to impart Christian education. In 1970, co-education was introduced and the school. In 1987, the school- which includes a chapel and one of the country’s largest auditoriums and best sporting facilities-was handed over to the Montfort Brothers to take charge, and it  continues to be highly regarded as one of Fiji’s most eminent secondary schools.

In 1958, the Shri Guru Nank Khalsa School committee was handed the site of the Wailailai Methodist Mission School in Ba, after proving sound financial capability. The committee was also transferred the lease of a new site at Wailailai Heights that the mission had intended to construct a new school building at. A foundation stone for Khalsa Primary School was laid in June 1958 and completed by 1959, with the teaching of Punjabi introduced to benefit children of the Sikh community. Shortly afterwards, one of the classrooms was allocated for the first lot of secondary school students, putting into formation the establishment of Khalsa College in 1960, with 55 pupils.

Types of Properties

 

While home to relatively wealthy townspeople, its boundaries also cover a wide spectrum of agricultural, Freehold and Native-leases, with a mix of eclectic farm and wooded houses in idyllic, country settings such as Moto, Raviravi, Tavarau, Koronubu, Saravi and Tuvu, which sweeps in fantastic views of the sea and Vitogo Bay, between Lautoka and Ba. Varadroli is the highest peak in town and the location of mostly concrete, affluent multi-storey homes with tight security and the hallmarks of a well-heeled community. Homes in Yalalevu are a mix of medium to high income buildings and command excellent proximity to well-regarded schools such as Xavier College and Kamil College, the Ba Football Academy and Govind Park, as well as the town’s industrial centre along the Kings Rd. Moto is a mostly cane-farming community with a wide variety of farmland, and a bridge crossing over the Ba River. Its road traverses through Vatulaulau, across the Ba River from the Rarawai Mill. Naidrodro and Rarawai are the site of houses belonging to the Fiji Sugar Corporation, and former dwellings of its predecessors, the Colonial Sugar Refinery (CSR) Company. Large sprawling homes with lush fauna, this charming settlement is spread near the FSC golf greens and has its own chapel, retaining a strong colonial-era ambience.

The town’s main realty houses are Nizmah’s Real Estate and Doreen Charan Real Estate, who both have offices in the CBD.

 

Economy & Main Industries

Manufacturing makes up a significant workforce in Ba, with companies such as Roofing & Profiles (Fiji) Limited,  CRP Industries, Dominion Cables, Dayal Sawmillers and Electromech Distributors stationed along the Kings Rd, before the town’s central business district. Earthmoving and construction companies also feature prominently.  The historical powerhouse of sugar production  continues to be a mainstay, with local cane farmers carting their crops to the Fiji Sugar Corporation’s Rarawai Mill, during the harvesting season.

Key Areas of Development

Yalalevu is located along the Kings Rd before Ba’s central business district and continues to expand its services and employmentship with new developments. These include a new state-of-the-art hospital that is due to open by 2018 and the country’s largest steel rolling mill by Dayal Steels Limited (a subsidiary of the MR Dayal Group). Construction of the  new Ba Hospital Rd was completed in August, 2017, to help relieve increased traffic demand in this area, with a new bus bay and shelter. The Fiji Roads Authority had noted that the new road would help increase capacity and reduce congestion by providing safer and improved access, particularly for hospital patients, visitors and staff.

There are also plans for a major upgrade and redevelopment of Govind Park to ensure it meets Occupational Health & Safety compliance, and has been allocated a $2.260 million Government budget. Also near Yalalevu are plans for a roadside minimarket at Nailaga by the Ministry of Local Government.

Parts of Ba that come under a rural electrification project by the FIji Electricity Authority include the villages of Votua, Koronubu, Tukuraki, Nawaqarua and the settlement of Sarava Seaside. These areas are part of the project’s grid extension while  new solar home systems are being installed at the villages of Nadrugu, Nadevo, Nabukeru and Natawa. The informal settlement at Tauvegavega is part of an ongoing initiative to draft proper tenancy agreements and improve basic infrastructure by the Fijian Government’s Department of Housing. Koronubu is also due for a drainage upgrade, while the settlement of Clopcott, near Yalalevu is in the final design stage of an upgrade  that includes the provision of basic infrastructure and security of tenure, and envisaged to be completed in 2019.

The residential area of Varadroli, which claims the highest peak in Ba and home to the town’s most eminent residencies, is also the site of ongoing developments by the town’s former Special Administrator, Arun Prasad, who has availed new Freehold residential lots and a commercial subdivision. Covering 40 acres, Stage 1 of the development was launched in 2014, with 30 Residential A and Residential B, with plans including an exclusive,  gated community with tight security, landscaping and other signatures of upmarket living.

Weather, Climate & Geography

Ba is located on the North-West coast of Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest island. The headwaters of the Ba River are located near Nadarivatu, in the mountains of Ba’s interior, which gives off heavy rain that has flooded Ba’s CBD and surrounding areas periodically. The mountainous area on the western fringe of the Ba River Valley have also been noted to receive heavy rain, with the hills surrounding Ba home to springs and falls. The highest peak in Ba Town is Varadroli, a residential point for the town’s wealthiest families.

Population & Demographics

Ba had a population of over 18,500 in the 2007 census. Its population has traditionally burgeoned around the mainstay of sugar, and included a large percentage of decendants of indentured labouers and settlers who migrated from India to trade in the 1920s.

Entertainment Attractions

As a soccer-loving town, football matches are a key pastime in Ba, with families often turning out to watch matches at Govind Park, named after former town mayor, Kishore Govind. The Ba Football team is locally referred to as the “men in black”. The Ba Football Association was founded in 1935 (originally as the Ba Indian Football Association) and its teams continue to be a dominant force in key tournaments such as the BOG and Fiji FACT.

There is also the Ba Golf Course at Rarawai, the residential area of the Fiji Sugar Corporation. The nine-hole course is spread over rolling hills, with great greens attracting golfers from other towns for tournaments.

History enthusiasts will appreciate the Ba Museum- one of two in the country. Its exhibits include a replica of the seal used by the Governor of Fiji, Sir Harry Luke, to officially proclaim Ba a township in April, 1939, five months before World War Two began. Located near the Ba municipal market, the museum offers a glimpse into the town’s formative years and is also a magnet for researching students.

Schools & Educational Institutes

Ba has a variety of pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary institutions for its resident population, including those who live around the CBD, rural areas and by the Kings Rd. These include h Xavier College, Khalsa College, Kamil College, Namosau Methodist Primary School, Ba Muslim Primary School, Varavu Muslim Primary School, AD Patel Primary School and AD Patel College, named after the late National Federation Party leader, the solicitor Ambalal Dahyabhai Patel,

There is also the Ba School for Special Education that caters to children with special needs. The Veilomani (Love) Boys Home is run by the Methodist Church of Fiji for orphaned and abandoned boys, and includes  primary, secondary school and vocational children and senior males who have mental health issues.  In 2012 its training centre was registered as the 15th secondary school in Ba, with the Methodist Veilomani Rehabilitation and Vocational College training young people in carpentry and joinery, automotive engineering and welding and fabrication amongst other skills. The Ba Women’s Forum Development Training Centre develops skills in baking, sewing, craftwork and other upskill for production and business management  for export, with a focus on the civil engagement, support and empowerment of women in the area.

The Fiji National University has a campus in Ba.

Healthcare & Emergency Services

 

Ba Mission Hospital (6674022) is the town’s main healthcare provider, while smaller stations include the Ba Health Centre (6674108), Nailaga Health Centre (6674300) and the Balevuto Health Centre (6283948). The Ba Health Inspector’s office is located at Koronubu House and  reachable on 6674045. The Ba Police Station is located at located next to the Ba Town Council premises, and can be reached on 6674222.

Government Authorities

Koronubu House is home to several Government bases. There are offices here for the Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations (6674 732), the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service (6626726), the Fiji Bureau of Statistics (667 3722) and the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (9120121).The Land Transport Authority’s Ba office can be contacted on 6674660.

Key Transport Services

Public transport providers in Ba include bus services from Sher Ali Khan Transport (6676608), Empire Bus Services (667 4213) and Fiji Transport Company (667 4030). Intercity providers from Ba to other towns include Sunbeam Transport (666 2822).